The Pirates are hiring a Data Architect, according to its list of job openings.
But this isn’t on the Baseball Operations side. Rather, it sits within the Business Intelligence unit of the organization.
Businesses of all types and sizes rely on data to make decisions, and if the Pirates were not using data on the business side, then fans would have yet another reason to pressure Bob Nutting to sell the team.
In simplest terms, business data is used to make decisions on revenue and expenses in an effort to maximize profit. Are we making the most money possible? Are we spending our funds efficiently?
In baseball, the vast majority of revenue comes from local and national television contracts and ticket sales. In 2019, for example, the Pirates earned an estimated $129 million from television rights and $49 million from tickets. MLB estimates that 40% of all revenue comes from tickets, concessions and other gate-related income.
That’s where the Data Architect will be focused, according to the job description, which references “data integrations with ticketing system” and lists “experience with ticketing data” as a desired requirement.
In any industry, the traditional role of a data architect is to design, create, deploy and manage an organization’s data architecture. They may collaborate with IT to determine where data is stored, but their responsibilities are largely around which data to aggregate and how the data is organized and integrated with various software systems (such as, for example, a third-party baseball data platform).
Data architects make it possible for data analysts to make sense of the information and present it for use in business decisions.
In 2019, the Pirates sold 1,491,429 tickets to home games. (They list that as the attendance, though no-shows are conspicuously not factored in.) Every ticket sale results in a new data point.
If you purchased a ticket through Tickets.com — a privately held subsidiary of MLB Advanced Media that processes online tickets for the Pirates — your name is in a customer relationship management (CRM) database that the Pirates’ front office is combing through regularly. They want to know how much you’ve spent, the number and level of tickets you purchased, whether you have responded to specific marketing campaigns (email, online ads, site interactions, phone calls, etc.), whether you have attended various non-game events or hospitality areas, how much you have spent on concessions or merchandise or other products, where you live, how old you are and more. Many businesses are pulling in demographic and financial information from third-party data providers, and if the Pirates are doing that, they may even have an understanding of your annual income — and therefore, whether you could be a candidate to move from a single-game ticket buyer to a season-ticket buyer.
You almost certainly have a score that predicts your lifetime value to the organization.
The data architect is a vital link in the information chain that ultimately allows the Pirates to efficiently target and monetize customers. They want to reach the right people with the right offer with the right ROI. The better they are at doing that, the more profit they will generate.
This is an area of increased emphasis in MLB, and some of that is attributed to Commissioner Rob Manfred. At a 2016 Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) event, sports executive Dan Migala said:
I think Commissioner [Rob] Manfred’s leadership in this area is really going to trickle down. Major League Baseball shared with me, just as an example, you’ll see automated reports on what are the outputs on a daily basis from a revenue standpoint that are delivered. Five years ago, the commissioner’s office would distribute four different revenue data points a day, and different analysis. This year, with Commissioner Manfred’s leadership, and increased emphasis on business analytics, 68 different points of data are being distributed on a revenue standpoint daily. … It’s not just the 30 Major League baseball teams that are doing this, but the minor leagues, 160 minor league teams across the country that are very integral to the ecosystem of baseball are doing these same channels and efforts to be able to drive incremental revenue.”
Within the Pirates front office, the new data architect will fall within the Business Intelligence team, which today includes:
- Jason Witzberger, Senior Director, Business Intelligence
- Andy Giambroni, Director, CRM and Consumer Insights
- Alex Everett, Quantitative Analyst, Business Analytics & Strategy
A 2007 MIT grad with a degree in management science, Witzberger has been with the Pirates since 2009. He began as a CRM coordinator and moved up the ranks, holding four positions in total, including his current role as head of the unit. He was undoubtedly involved a decade ago when the Pirates adopted Tableau, a high-end data software that allows the team to “visualize sales and marketing trends in real-time.”
Giambroni joined the Pirates in 2009 as an inside sales representative and held six different positions in 12 years. Given his background, he is likely the liaison between the business intelligence and ticket sales departments. (This is similar to the role that Mike Fitzgerald held several years ago, serving as a conduit between baseball analytics and the clubhouse.) After graduating from Saint John Fisher College with a degree in sports management, Giambroni spent a couple years on the sales side of the Arena Football League.
As the resident analyst, Everett is the one you would likely find buried in Tableau and various spreadsheets, trying to discern meaningful data and trends that can be used to inform sales decisions. Analysts are often at the fulcrum of business intelligence operations, so Everett may have a long list of projects sitting on his to-do list. With a master’s degree in applied statistics, he has been with the Pirates for three years, following stints in finance, higher education and sports (with ESPN). You can read one of his pre-Pirates baseball research articles here.
All three are part of the larger Sales & Business Development department, which is led by executive vice president David Burke and is focused on ticket sales, ticket operations, hospitality, non-game events and business intelligence.
The business intelligence unit appears to be growing. In April, the Pirates posted a job opening for a Director, Data Architecture, which may oversee the data architect. The job is no longer available, which we can assume is because it has been filled. Until May 30, the Pirates also had a job description up for a new Manager, Data Visualization. We should be able to check the front office directory later this summer to see who is now officing on Federal Street.
Along with the new data architect, that will put the business intelligence team at six. Pirates fans who lament the size of the payroll can only hope that adding data experts on the business side has the same impact on revenue as adding them on the baseball side has on wins.
In case the link is defunct — likely because the position has been filled — here is the full job description for the Data Architect role:
We are an equal employment opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status or any other characteristic protected by law.
The Data Architect is responsible for building and maintaining the database structures used for data storage and retrieval within the business operations of the Pirates. This position will utilize best practices for extraction, transformation, cleansing, and load of all internal and external data. The Data Architect will work closely with other members of the Business Intelligence team to create reporting structures and implement data mining processes for analysis and predictive modeling.
- Oversee the daily operation, performance, and maintenance of the data assets used within business operations and makes use of Pirates’ standards and industry best practices to implement efficient and high-performance access to data.
- Design, create, and extend processes for data extraction, transformation, cleansing, and load to and from internal and external data sources for both structured and unstructured data.
- Work with CRM partner to ensure accuracy and timeliness of data integrations with ticketing system.
- Evaluate potential data providers and design and implement storage models that integrate with the existing data and application architectures.
- Collaborate with Manager, Data Visualization to design, create, and maintain reporting structures using Tableau.
- Work with Director, CRM and Consumer Insights to augment customer records for segmentation and targeted marketing.
- Collaborate with Manager, Quantitative Analytics to design and implement data mining processes and integrate data models into cloud environment.
- Work with VP, Strategy to automate all key performance indicator tracking used for strategic initiatives throughout the organization.
- Other duties as assigned by management.
- Assist with data retrieval for ad-hoc data analysis.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Systems, or equivalent.
- Minimum one (1) year of experience administering enterprise level data structures.
- Expert knowledge of SQL and database administration tools.
- Minimum one (1) year of experience with API integrations.
- Minimum one (1) year of experience with database workflow tools, i.e. Apache Airflow or Argo Workflows.
- Minimum one (1) year of experience with cloud-based architectures and tools including Google Cloud Platform.
- Master’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Systems or equivalent.
- Experience with Python.
- Experience with ticketing data.
- Experience with a CRM system, i.e. Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce
- Experience with statistical analysis software such as R, SAS, SSPS.